8 Mindfulness Activities & Exercises for Kids
Note: This information is accurate at the time of publishing. Please refer to the COVID-19 page on the Lurie Children’s website for continually updated information and resources for patient families, healthcare providers and general information on the virus and keeping families healthy.
No matter a child’s age, they are probably aware that things in their life have changed right now and could be struggling with their feelings about it. Mindfulness - the simple act of focusing on the present in a gentle, nonjudgmental way - can be helpful for both children and parents to connect to one’s thoughts and feelings and be present with each other.
This can seem like a difficult concept to introduce to kids. But, there are many activities kids can do at home that incorporate moments of mindfulness in fun, educational and creative ways. Whether your child is showing signs they feel anxious or settling into new routines well, Lurie Children’s Art Therapist Giuseppina Impellizzeri has rounded up some simple and creative ways to encourage mindfulness:
Practice intentional breathing
The simple act of focusing on your breath can help you and your child to unwind, reset and step away from overwhelming feelings for a moment. Practice this simple breathing exercise: Draw sideways 8 and trace one loop with your finger while breathing in and then breathe out on the second loop.
Focus on the five senses
Having a hard time staying in the present? A quick way to ground yourself is by using your five senses. Name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. This practice can help bring one’s attention to the present moment and create a sense of groundedness.
A mandala is a circular design that has repeating colors, shapes, and patterns radiating from the center. This versatile, creative tool that can be used in your mindfulness practice. You can draw a circle on paper and create patterns and repetition within it or create a 3D mandala from found objects within your home or in nature. You can also find mandala coloring pages available to download for a quick way to engage.
Get in touch with the outside
For most of us, walks have been a helpful way to get moving and release endorphins that elevate one’s mood. Add some mindfulness to your family walks by playing “I Spy” or looking for art around your neighborhood. Encourage your child to listen, look, and smell the world around them. Take breaks to just notice your feelings and explore with kindness and curiosity.
Engage and explore the senses
Rice, popcorn kernels, kinetic sand, beads, finger painting, shaving cream, model magic. Engaging with these items can be a grounding practice. You can add essential oils or fragrances to further engage the senses!
Create a sensory surprise bag
Gather items around the house of varying textures and put them in a paper bag. Have your child reach in and explore the items through touch. You can support your child being mindful by prompting them with questions such as: Is it hard or soft? Are there edges? Ask your child to describe what they are feeling.
Yoga encourages taking time to practice deep breathing, engage in body awareness, reduce stress, practice patience and emotional regulation. Search YouTube for a variety of guided practices for both kids and adults at a variety of levels.
Download mindfulness apps
Turn screen time into a moment of mindfulness. We recommend searching for apps that assist with guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, breathing, body scans, and mindfulness meditation. Check out apps like Stop, Breathe, Think, Headspace, Calm and Mindful Family: Meditation app.
Being mindful can be simple, but it’s not always easy. Through each mindfulness activity, focus on doing one thing at a time. Take time to turn off any distractions, check in with your child and allow them to feel whatever emotion they are having. Whether you practice deep breathing or explore outside, encourage your child to share how they are feeling in the moment with questions like: How are you feeling? Where are you having feelings in your body? What do you need right now? What are you grateful for?
No matter what age group you have at home, taking mindful breaks can be an enjoyable part of your day and relieve stress, encourage relaxation and bring a boost of compassion and happiness. Looking for other activities at home? Read more on educational activities to keep kids learning while at home.
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